DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister
Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns started off the 2013 preseason with a 27-19 win over the St. Louis Rams. Although winning is always the ultimate goal, the more important thing that we can take away from the game is an evaluation of the Browns’ players in new schemes on offense and defense. After looking at how the first-team offense and defense performed in the game, it is now time to take a look at the second and third-string players on both sides of the ball.
Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer both did a good job of spreading the ball around to multiple receivers on Thursday night. Campbell played with the second-string offense, completed six of seven passes for 37 yards, rushed for 12 yards on a scramble, and was sacked one time. His one incomplete pass came on a third and five when he overthrew Chris Ogbonnaya on a check down. Had the pass been completed, Ogbonnaya may have been able to pick up the first down. The sack came on a third and five where right guard Jason Pinkston and left tackle Rashad Butler did not move at the snap of the ball and two defensive linemen immediately sprinted past them and into the backfield. Campbell tried his best to outrun them but was sacked for a 10-yard loss. Hoyer’s snaps came with the second and third-string offense. He showed good arm strength and completed 10 of 14 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Miguel Maysonet carried the ball nine times for 25 yards and was flagged for a false start penalty late in the third quarter. He also caught two passes for 13 yards and flashed some explosiveness after the catch on a screen pass from Hoyer that went for ten yards. On the plays where Maysonet was in pass protection, he gave good effort and even saved Hoyer from getting hit once.
Owen Marecic was inconsistent all around as a blocker. I saw him make one excellent block at the second level in the run game, but I also saw him get overpowered by a blitzer in pass protection and badly miss a block at the second level on another run play.
With the second-team offense, Travis Benjamin came in at the X, Jordan Norwood came in at the Z, and Josh Cooper lined up in the slot. Benjamin made the play of the night when he went untouched down the left sideline on a 91-yard punt return touchdown. He also gained 12 yards and a first down when he caught a comeback route from Campbell on his third offensive snap. As the backup punt returner, Norwood fielded a punt and took a big hit as soon as he fielded it. Norwood also caught an out route for nine yards and a first down. Cooper caught two passes for 19 yards. The two catches by Cooper came on what looked to be an out route and a comeback route. Because nfl.com’s Preseason Live app does not allow users to view the game in coach’s tape, I was unable to evaluate each receiver’s route running.
Cordell Roberson was the third-string X receiver and scored a 26-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. On the play, the defense was in man-to-man coverage with a safety over the top (Cover One). It seemed that when the slot receiver to the inside of Roberson went to the outside on a flat route, the cornerback across from Roberson expected the slot defender to run with Roberson down the field. Both defenders took the slot receiver on the flat route and Roberson was immediately wide open on a corner route. Hoyer threw the ball to the outside and Roberson stepped into the end zone untouched. The only defender who had a chance to stop the touchdown was the free safety, but it would have been nearly impossible for him to get over in time.
Naaman Roosevelt played Z receiver with the third-team offense and finished the game with zero catches. On one play, Roosevelt ran a fade route against Cover Two and Brian Hoyer threw the ball to him deep down the right sideline. Although the pass went out of bounds, Roosevelt gave a great diving effort and caught the pass a few yards out of bounds. Roosevelt also had a 29-yard kickoff return in the third quarter.
Dominique Croom played some X receiver late in the game and made a spectacular leaping catch midway through the fourth quarter for a 22-yard gain. It looked as though he ran a fade route on the play. The pass was high and Croom went up over the defensive back and made a spectacular catch.
Kellen Davis had zero catches and really struggled overall as a run blocker. On one run in the second quarter, the defensive end drove Davis back two yards into the backfield. Had Davis been able to create any movement at all, the run may have gone for a nice gain. Instead, the run resulted in only a three-yard gain. On another run play late in the third quarter, Davis was driven five yards backwards at the point of attack by the left defensive end. Davis was too high in his stance on the play and did not look to be giving maximum effort. The run resulted in a two-yard gain.
Backup left guard Garrett Gilkey played a very good all-around game. He played 28 snaps with the second and third-team offensive line and consistently showed off his ability to anchor in pass protection. Gilkey rarely gave up any ground to opposing pass rushers and did not allow a sack, hit, or hurry. In the run game, Gilkey typically executed his assignments and made some nice blocks at the second level. On a power run play late in the second quarter, Gilkey made an excellent block on the outside linebacker, but the run only resulted in a two-yard gain. Gilkey also executed a beautiful block out in space on a screen pass that went for 10 yards.
On backup left tackle Rashad Butler’s first snap of the game, he committed a false start penalty. Although they went uncalled, I found at least three other times where Butler should have been flagged for false start penalties on the same drive. Overall, Butler did a good job in the run game and as a pass protector. He surrendered a sack on a play where he failed to move at the snap of the ball.
Dominic Alford was on the field for 28 snaps and stood out as a player who played a very good game at right tackle. He was strong at the point of attack in the run game, and did not give up any sacks, hits, or hurries in pass protection.
Third-string left guard Aaron Adams gave up a quarterback hurry when he got beaten badly to his inside by a beautiful swim move. Adams also struggled to sustain blocks and struggled to hold up at the point of attack in the run game. On the run on third and one that would have allowed the Browns to run the clock out, Adams came out of his stance too high and was driven back three yards into the backfield. The lead blocker Travis Tannahill ran into Adams and caused Miguel Maysonet to get tackled in the backfield for a loss of one yard.
Martin Wallace played right tackle with the second-team offensive line and left tackle with the third-team offensive line. He struggled to move defenders at the point of attack in the run game, but he did a solid all around job in pass protection. He got beaten initially off the edge a few times, but did a good job of recovering before surrendering a quarterback hit.
Ishmaa’ily Kitchen lined up in the base 3-4 defense at zero-technique. Kitchen showed off impressive athletic ability for his size pursuing down the line of scrimmage, a good pad level and strength holding up at the point of attack, and a very high motor. On one play, Kitchen chased the running back to the sideline and made a huge hit; knocking the back’s helmet off. It was ruled that the running back stepped out of bounds before the hit occurred, but it was still a spectacular display of hustle and athleticism.
John Hughes lined up at three-technique and five-technique, played with a good, low pad level, and showed off excellent hand placement, an understanding of leverage in the run game, and a high motor. Although Hughes is very stout at the point of attack, he struggled on a few plays where he was forced to pursue down the line of scrimmage and take away cutback lanes. Hughes’ best play from a pass rushing standpoint came when he fired off the ball and used good hand usage to keep the right guard from engaging with him. He then beat the guard to his outside and forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket. After the quarterback stepped up in the pocket, Brian Sanford brought him down for a sack.
Hall Davis lined up at three-technique, five-technique, and one-technique and regularly displayed an explosive first step and high motor early on in his extended time on the field (36 defensive snaps). On one play, Davis showed impressive quickness and flexibility beating the right guard to the outside. The play may have resulted in a sack had the guard not resorted to grabbing ahold of Davis’s jersey. Although Davis did a good job of holding up at the point of attack a few times in the run game, he typically played too high and got driven off the ball too often. Davis also ended up on the ground too many times. On Davis’s most impactful play of the game, he initially got caught in a stalemate with the right guard, but continued to read the quarterback’s eyes as he fought to win the down. When the quarterback began his throwing motion, Davis leaped in the air and threw his hands up. The pass was tipped by Davis and intercepted by Justin Staples. Overall, Davis was most impressive early on in the game and seemed like he may have gotten tired as the game progressed.
Brian Sanford lined up at three-technique, five-technique, and one-technique and showed off his athletic ability, a nice spin move, good leverage while bull rushing, and a high motor. Although he typically played too high and had his fair share of struggles against the run, he recorded a sack, a hit on the quarterback, and a quarterback hurry when rushing the passer. Sanford’s sack came on what looked to be a stunt between he and Barkevious Mingo. On the stunt, Mingo brought the left tackle to the inside as Sanford performed a spin move to beat the left guard to the outside. Once Hughes forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket, Sanford flattened his path to the quarterback, closed in, and brought him down for the sack.
The raw athleticism and high motor that Armonty Bryant brings to the table were apparent in his 27 defensive snaps. He showed off the makings of a very nice swim move and an explosive first step. On one play, the Browns ran a stunt with he and Justin Cole. Cole brought the left tackle inside and Bryant used a beautiful swim move to badly beat the left guard to the outside. He displayed excellent closing burst as he closed in on the quarterback and delivered a hit just as the pass was thrown.
Newly-signed outside linebacker Quentin Groves recorded a sack on his first snap against the Rams second-team offense when he jumped the snap and showed incredible flexibility bending the edge and beating Rams right tackle Ty Nsekhe. Nsekhe was even flagged for a holding penalty on the play. Although he was not in on any during Thursday’s game, I expect Groves to play plenty of snaps with the first-team defense during the regular season.
Justin Cole’s fluidity, flexibility, and explosive first step stood out consistently late in the game. Cole produced one quarterback hit and four hurries along with an interception. In the run game, Cole looked as though he possesses good length and knows how to use it to his advantage when setting the edge. On a reverse, Cole stayed at home, pursued the ball carrier to the outside and brought him down for a tackle for a loss. On the final play of the game, Cole intercepted a pass attempt from Kellen Clemons in the end zone.
Kendrick Adams’ motor and athleticism stood out on the first play of the final drive of the game. After being blocked by the right tackle and chipped by the back coming out of the backfield, Adams disengaged from the tackle’s block, and showed some impressive closing burst as he forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket. Although he was unable to bring down the quarterback and the pass was completed for a long gain, Adams did his job on the play.
Justin Staples made a few big plays and really stood out on a play-in, play-out basis when he was in the game. On a fourth and five in the fourth quarter, Staples aggressively blitzed through the B-gap between the left guard and tackle. He was picked up by the running back in pass protection. The quarterback was forced to step up in the pocket due to the pressure from Justin Cole off the edge. When the quarterback stepped up, he decided to scramble and try to run for the first down. Staples immediately began to pursue the quarterback, eventually disengaged from the running back’s block attempt, and brought down the quarterback two yards shy of the first down marker. Staples also impressed me with the way he used his hands to disengage from blocks. On a run play, he took on a pulling guard, disengaged quickly with excellent hand usage, and then combined with some teammates to bring down the running back after a four-yard gain. On Staples’ interception, he dropped into zone coverage and took a few steps to the outside of the tight end as he ran a vertical route. Staples read the quarterback’s eyes, saw that he was staring down the tight end, and began to move in that direction just as the quarterback threw the pass. Hall Davis tipped the pass up in the air and Staples dove forward to intercept the pass. He then alertly got up and gained another four yards after the pick.
Tommy Smith was very impressive in his time on the field Thursday night. On a run play that resulted in a two-yard gain early in the fourth quarter, Smith did a great job of taking out a puller in the hole and then getting up and joining his teammates in the pile to bring down the ball carrier. On another run play, Smith followed the flow of the offensive line and backfield, closed in on the running back in the open field, and delivered a huge hit on a perfect form tackle for a gain of two yards. Smith finished the game with three solo tackles. Like Staples, Smith regularly showed off impressive hand usage when disengaging from blocks.
James-Michael Johnson was only in the game for 15 defensive snaps and had two assisted tackles to show for it. On his third play of the game, he pursued from the weak side, overran the play, and allowed the running back to run through the cutback lane for a 12-yard gain. Although he over pursued on too many run plays, I liked the way that Johnson came up and got physical with backs running pass routes out of the backfield.
Tank Carder recorded two solo tackles and showed impressive closing burst and instincts overall. On the play where Ishmaa’ily Kitchen’s big hit took place, Tank Carder took a really poor angle and badly missed a tackle in the flat. What could have been only a four-yard gain resulted in a seven-yard gain and could have been more had the running back not stepped out of bounds under his own power.
LJ Fort showed some athletic ability in pursuit, but was taken out of too many plays due to over pursuing. Fort also struggled to disengage from blocks. He finished the game with three assisted tackles.
Note: Like I have said many times in the past; without access to coach’s tape, it is nearly impossible to properly evaluate defensive backs.
Akeem Auguste led the team in defensive snaps (63) and finished the game with four tackles. Although he gave up some catches, he showed good aggressiveness and had a very nice pass breakup on what looked to be a comeback route.
Abdul Kanneh was on the field for 46 defensive snaps and aside from his competitive demeanor, he did not impress me overall. Although he made a couple of nice hits when assisting teammates on tackles, Kanneh was called for a pass interference penalty and was badly beat deep on the final drive of the game. Had the receiver not dropped the pass, the play would have likely resulted in a touchdown and given the Rams a chance to tie the game with 15 seconds left in the game.
Josh Aubrey showed some aggressiveness and physicality as he finished the game with four tackles (one on special teams). Aubrey’s special teams tackle occurred on the kickoff coverage unit early in the second quarter. He exhibited perfect tackling form on the play.